Parlour Steps, Portland OR

Portland is barely in Oregon, I realized with some surprise. There’s a sign that says “Welcome to Oregon” as you cross a bridge that takes you into downtown Portland. I was awed by the beauty of Mount Ranier, a great distance away but still clearly visible; jagged, snowy, all sharp edges against an azure sky and open plains.

Rob, Caleb and I ended up in a lovely suburban park playing frisbee waiting for Julie and Rees to arrive. Well, they played. I mostly ran after the frisbee and managed to throw it everywhere except to the guy who was waiting to catch it. I did find a swing set, thankfully. Yes, I still play on swingsets. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to keep my 11 year old self with me always. The 11 year old Maira was a sweet and joyful person, quite unlike the cynical bitter crone I have become. So, I read. I write stories. I play piano and on swingsets. The same stuff I did in grade 6. The main difference now is that sometimes I get paid to do these things (except for playing on the swings. Still working on that).

We are staying at Rees’s cousin’s house. Thank goddess for family members and friends with extra rooms and living room floors. They make the indie rock adventure possible. We have access to a lovely suburban home, very near to the lovely suburban park. Definitely we are in lovely suburban area of Portland, about half an hour from the city. Everything is very clean. No homeless people to distract you from the calm, landscaped prettiness. SUV’s litter the streets. You can buy liquor anywhere. There are a lot of white people. Everywhere there are huge networks of big box retailers. There is a noticeable lack of sidewalks.

Later on that evening, Rob, Rees, Julie and I ended up at a local pub for dinner. This was a wonderful place. You could bring your own container and have it filled with beer from their little brewery downstairs. Like bringing a gas can to the station for a fill up. We left with two enormous jars full. I got carded again and this time Rob snatched my license from my hand and examined my birthdate carefully. Yeah, Rob. I know. It’s almost unbelievable that a woman who is older than you looks so fresh and young and radiant. Kidding, I’m kidding. Radiant might be pushing it.

The next day before the show we had time to wander around Portland. We found Powell’s Books “the biggest bookstore in the world”. Heaven! Bliss! Geek paradise! The size of a city block, and each section was as big as a typical bookstore. I spent about an hour there and never got past new releases. I only had an hour left before rendezvous, so I stepped out into the sunshine to take in the city, and walked about four very pleasant blocks before I found a fantastic used cd store. Independent, quirky and unique. Burned up the rest of my free time in there scanning the bins, never made it to the end of the alphabet. Left with a bag full of music, though. I approve of Portland. Books, music, art galleries, and a city bylaw that makes it legal to swim in all the public fountains.

The show. Now, this show was pretty damn good. There were people there to see us. Some we knew (thank you, Rees’s family and their friends), some we didn’t. Everybody had a good time. Big stage, well balanced stage sound, fancy lights. I found myself hopping about and smiling joyfully whilst playing my tambourine. I’m still developing my Parlour Steps character and apparently she’s going to be a happy wee lass. I haven’t had so much good clean fun playing music since…actually I’ve never felt this lighthearted while performing. It feels great to be onstage with these people. There’s nothing but calm, loving good vibes. Maybe it’s not too late to shed some bitterness, put on some trust instead. You see what they’re doing to me, they’re wearing me down with all their stupid happiness and positive attitudes, damn them.

Julie and I did some drinking. We talked very loudly (and a lot) to Rob as he drove us back to the house. He was a dear, making us laugh and putting up with our drunken foolishness. We all ended up watching American Idol at 2:30 in the morning. And petting big fluffy cats. I do remember waking up at some point to hear a frustrated guitar player exclaim “This game is STUPID!” Ah, yes. Another guitar player tries to beat Guitar Hero and fails. Or, perhaps more specifically, a guitar player tries to beat his non-guitar playing cousin at Guitar Hero and fails. I fell back asleep giggling. A first for me while on tour. I’ve fallen asleep crying more than once.

Rob, Julie, and I had to get up ridiculously early the next morning to make it back to Vancouver in time for me to teach piano lessons. Just like that – back to reality, work, routine. With some reluctance I dutifully refastened my normal life.

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